UBC Botanical Garden’s Randal Mindell is the author of today’s entry (thank you!). As an aside, Eric La Fountaine will be organizing entries / sending out the notifications for the next week or so while I’m away. Randal writes:
Today we take a diversion into the world of botanical illustration and learn of a rare, photosynthetic Panda. Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien was originally published in 23 volumes between 1887 and 1915. Co-edited by Adolf Engler and Karl von Prantl, the series was extremely broad in scope, covering all genera of all families of all photosynthetic organisms, as well as fungi and an assortment of “protozoa”. While the exhaustive Latin descriptions and German elaborations are remarkable enough, the scope of the illustration work is often underplayed. More than 30,000 unique drawings in Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien were engraved by the same illustrator, Josef Pohl. The scope and quality of these technical illustrations proved invaluable when many of the type specimens (i.e., the herbarium specimen that the name and published description are based upon) used for these illustrations went up in flames during the bombing of Berlin in World War II. As such, many illustrations remain as the only record of type material.
As demonstrated here in Figure 1, Volume 19 in the second edition of the series (public domain image used here), the illustration style was exhaustive, covering the stems, leaves, inflorescences, flowers, pollen, fruits and seeds of most genera, often times in both external form and internal anatomy (J,K,L,N,O,P). Descriptions and figures of this extent are rare elsewhere in the literature, so this work remains a relevant reference for fundamental botanical information long after its original publication.
Nuts of Panda oleosa (illustrated in the figure) are actually a common food for one of our closest living relatives. Chimpanzees in Africa have been observed to use primitive tools to smash open the nuts (PDF) and extract seed tissue.